I’m not usually well enough organised to write posts about additions to my bookshelves, but when I realised that my most recent purchases fitted a 3 by 3 formation I had to do it. It appealed to the logical side of my brain as well as the bookish side!
Back at the end of May the Book Depository ran a Family & Friends promotion offering a 10% discount on everything. I hadn’t bought any new books for ages and it seemed like a sign!
My first thought was “Persephone”, but I like to buy my books direct from Persephone so I get the bookmarks and to make sure I stay on the mailing list, and so I paused. And then another name came into my head – “Valancourt”.
Valanourt Books is an small press press and it publishes gorgeous new editions of rare books from the 18th and 19th centuries, many of which have been out of print for yours.
There are stacks of Valancout books on my wishlist, but this is the trio I went for:
Clermont by Maria Regina Roche
Clermont is the story of Madeline, a porcelain doll of a Gothic heroine, who lives in seclusion from society with her father, Clermont, whose past is shrouded in mystery. One stormy night, their solitude is interrupted by a benighted traveller, a Countess who turns out to be a friend from Clermont’s past. Madeline goes to live with the Countess to receive her education, but her new idyllic life soon turns into a shocking nightmare. Ruffians attack the gentle Countess, and Madeline is assaulted in a gloomy crypt. And to make matters worse, a sinister stranger appears, threatening to reveal the bloody truth of Clermont’s past unless Madeline marries him. Can she avoid the snares of her wily pursuers, solve the mystery of her father’s past, and win the love of her dear De Sevignie?
One of the “horrid” books mentioned in Northanger Abbey. I’m starting to work my way through them.
Diana Tempest by Mary Cholmondeley
When Mr. Tempest dies, the family fortune and estate pass to his son, John, whom everyone except John himself knows to be illegitimate. Colonel Tempest, his spendthrift son Archie, and his beautiful daughter Diana find themselves cut off, and Colonel Tempest is bitterly resentful. One night, in a drunken stupor, he agrees to a bet, by which he will pay £10,000 if he should ever succeed to the Tempest estate. By the time he realizes that the effect of this wager was to place a bounty on John’s head, it is too late — and attempts begin to be made on John’s life! Meanwhile, Diana, strong and independent, has declared that she will never marry . . . but as she becomes closer with her cousin, her sentiments start to waver. And when John learns of his own illegitimacy, what will happen to his burgeoning relationship with Diana and his claim to the Tempest fortune?
This one was particularly recommended to me – and the fact that Mary Cholmondeley was a Virago author would have ensured that I bought a copy sooner or later.
The Two Emilys by Sophia Lee
In The Two Emilys, masquerade, an earthquake, bigamy, insanity, blackmail, and duels serve the demonic Emily Fitzallen in her drive for revenge on her counterpart and the novel’s heroine. Emily Arden, and the man over whom they do battle, the Marquis of Lenox. Will the good Emily or the evil one prevail? Featuring a wild, improbable plot and action that ranges from Ireland and Scotland to Switzerland and Italy, The Two Emilys remains an unpredictable and thrilling Gothic tale.
I just couldn’t resist!
And then there’a a trio from charity shops:
A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey
At the turn of the century, a time when women had few choices, Bess Steed Garner inherits a legacy – not only of wealth but of determination and desire, making her truly a woman of independent means. From the early 1900s through the 1960s, we accompany Bess as she endures life’s trials and triumphs with unfailing courage and indomitable spirit: the sacrifices love sometimes requires of the heart, the flaws and rewards of marriage, the often-tested bond between mother and child, and the will to defy a society that demands conformity. Told in letters we follow the remarkable life of Bess Steed Garner from her childhood in 1899 to her death in 1977.
This has been on my wishlist for ages and it isn’t rare but I held out for a Virago Modern Classics edition. One appeared on Saturday – and for a mere 50p. I love books of letters (fact or fiction) and this one looks wonderful.
Hellfire and Herring by Christopher Rush
‘The scent of God…the air was impregnated with him and his mint-sweet and moth-ball evangelists. Just as it was with herring, as you might expect in a fossilised fishing-village on Scotland’s repressed east coast where fishing was an act of faith and not yet a computer-science industry designed to suck the last drops of life out of the sea.’ A vivid and moving account of the author’s upbringing in the 1940s and 1950s in the little fishing village of St Monans. Rush returns decades later to rediscover his childhood, and offers a frank account of how it was for him. This evocation of a way of life now vanished demonstrates the power of the word to bring the past timelessly to life. Rush writes of family, village characters, church and school; of folklore and fishing, the eternal power of the sea and the cycles of the seasons. With a poet’s eye he navigates the worlds of the imagination and the unknown, the archetypal problems of fathers and sons and mother love, and the inescapability of childhood influences far on into adult life.
The little caught my eye first. Then I saw it was a seaside childhood memoir and so I took a closer look. The prose looked lovely, and so home it came.
The Athenian Murders by Jose Carlos Somoza
In Athens, a pupil of Plato’s Academy is found dead and his teacher suspects this was no accident. He asks Heracles, the “Decipherer of Enigmas”, to investigate the case and the murky cult that surrounds it. The second plot unfolds in parallel through the footnotes of the translator of the original Greek text and soon leads the reader to suspect the author of the tale has something to hide too. Plot within plot, meaning inside meaning, the story develops in a fascinating manner that will enchant both mystery fans and scholars as reality is shown to be somewhat untrustworthy.
Another long-serving book from my wishlist that finally appeared before me.
And finally, some Persephone Books. What could I do when an email containing details of a special offer for their 10th anniversary landed?
… Also, for this week only there is a special offer of three books for the price of two ie if you buy two books you may have a third free of charge …
I should have resisted – I have a number of unread Persephones on my bookshelves – but I didn’t, and now I have three more. All are dressed in beautiful dove grey covers, and so it is the prints used for the endpapers and bookmarks that you see below. Can fellow devotees identify the books without looking to the words below i wonder …
I definitely have three gems: –
Miss Buncle’s Book by D E Stevenson
The storyline of Miss Buncle’s Book (1934) is a simple one: Barbara Buncle, who is unmarried and perhaps in her late 30s, lives in a small village and writes a novel about it in order to try and supplement her meagre income. This is a light-hearted, easy read, one of those books like Mariana, Miss Pettigrew, The Making of a Marchioness and Greenery Street which can be recommended unreservedly to anyone looking for something undemanding, fun and absorbing that is also well-written and intelligent.
Minnie’s Room: The Peacetime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes
This companion volume to Persephone Book No. 8, “Good Evening, Mrs Craven”, contains ten stories describing aspects of British life in the years after the war. “Minnie’s Room” itself is about a family who are unable to believe that their maid wants to leave them to live in a room of her own. An elderly couple emigrates because of ‘the dragon out to gobble their modest, honourable incomes.’ The sisters in “Beside the Still Waters” grumble because ‘Everything is so terribly difficult nowadays.’Mollie Panter – Downes, said the Spectator, ‘is discomfortingly good at anatomising the crudities and subtleties of snobbery – but she is never unkind.’
The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson-Burnett
Sir Nigel Anstruthers crosses the Atlantic to look for a rich wife and returns with the daughter of an American millionaire, Rosalie Vanderpoel. He turns out to be a bully, a miser and a philanderer and virtually imprisons his wife in the house. Only when Rosalie’s sister Bettina is grown up does it occur to her and her father that some sort of rescue expedition should take place. And the beautiful, kind and dynamic Bettina leaves for Europe to try and find out why Rosalie has, inexplicably, chosen to lose touch with her family. In the process she engages in a psychological war with Sir Nigel; meets and falls in love with another Englishman; and starts to use the Vanderpoel money to modernize ‘Stornham Court’.
Now all I have to do is catch up with my library books and my challenge books so I can start on these!